This section includes discussion Sherman’s force organization, daily tracks of the movements, and some sidebars. The daily installments begin with the first day of movement out of Atlanta, November 15, 1864. And these end with the fall of Savannah on December 21.
The period between the fall of Savannah and the opening of march into South Carolina saw limited movements by the opposing armies. But much logistical preparation, planning, and positioning took place. In addition, leaders on both sides weighed important policy decisions that factored in the months which followed. This section looks at events occurring between the capture of Savannah and the start of the march into South Carolina – December 21, 1864 to January 13, 1865.
The initial march into South Carolina took Sherman’s columns from Savannah to the state capital of Columbia. This was a “hard war” campaign absent major battles. But the march was far from a routine movement. From one perspective, this phase displayed Sherman’s keen handling of operations in good light – crossing several river barriers without significant delay. At the same time, Confederate indecision cost the rebels the cities of Columbia and Charleston. This section details operations between January 14 and February 18, 1865.
From Columbia, Sherman’s next objective was to cross into North Carolina and secure a connection to the coast. But the march looked easier on the map than it could be done on the ground. The worst weather seen during the campaign left the Federals mired in the sand hills of South Carolina for days. Foraging parties continually ran into Confederate cavalry. At this point, the “hard war” turned harder with retaliations against prisoners. This section covers operations from February 20 to March 12, 1865.
After resting briefly at Fayetteville, Sherman turned his march towards Goldsboro with an aim to resupply before moving on to Virginia. However the Confederates under General J.E. Johnston foiled that plan. For the first time in the march, Confederates stood to fight major battles – Averasboro (March 16) and Bentonville (March 19-21). Unable to seriously injure Sherman, Johnston withdrew. Sherman continued to Goldsboro where he was reinforced by two more corps. This section includes posts from March 13-31, with focus on Sherman’s movements and Confederate command decisions.
To Bennett Place and beyond – Advance from Goldsboro to Raleigh, Confederate surrender, and the march home (Separate Page)
The shortest “leg” of the Great March was Sherman’s last offensive operation of the war. With Lee’s surrender in Virginia, Johnston’s Confederate army became the most important objective remaining for the Federals. From a military standpoint, the operation was anti-climatic without any major battles. But politically, the negotiation then rejection and re-negotiation of Johnston’s surrender had significant repercussions on the peace that followed. Included in this section are posts related to Stoneman’s Raid which came out of East Tennessee into North Carolina and Virginia.
Though not “Sherman’s” march, Potter’s Raid was authorized by Sherman’s orders and served to complement the final operations against the Confederacy in the Carolinas.